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5 Ponant Auckland Cruise Reviews

Based on the price, we thought Ponant would be a really nice cruise, but we were disappointed in comparison to other top-notch cruise lines we've enjoyed. Many incidents were individually small things that would have been easily ... Read More
Based on the price, we thought Ponant would be a really nice cruise, but we were disappointed in comparison to other top-notch cruise lines we've enjoyed. Many incidents were individually small things that would have been easily overlooked IF the overall cruise or friendliness of the staff would have exceeded (or even MET) our expectations. As our cruise progressed though, the tiny annoyances added up to a point where we felt disappointed overall. Here are just a few examples: The embarkation process was disorganized. It seemed that all passengers were instructed to embark at the same time (4 pm) ... yet we all waited significantly past 4 pm in a very hot, stuffy terminal building - with no idea when we'd actually be able to board, or in what order. Without understanding WHY a big group from Tauck Tours was led ahead of the rest of us who had been waiting longer, and even AFTER they all boarded, there was confusion as to when the rest of us could go. When we finally got to our stateroom, one of our bags wasn't delivered until we went to ask for it, and when disembarking after the cruise, we were told we had to have our suitcases in the hallway at 7 am, but at 8 am when we went to breakfast, our bags hadn't even been picked up. We had a car waiting for us at 8:30 -- we changed it to 8:45 am, but even then our suitcases weren't out on the dock yet, so our taxi had to wait. Another example ... after suddenly learning that the "captain's gala" night would be the night after we boarded, we were dismayed to learn that any clothes we asked to have ironed could not be guaranteed back to us for up to 48 hours. We made a simple request at the reception desk to please have brief access to an iron so our formal wear could be presentable (we'd been traveling for 3 days/nights so our dressier clothes were VERY wrinkled). We were told "for safety reasons" we couldn't use an iron, whether in our room or ANYwhere on the ship in order to make our clothes presentable for the gala. Viking and Crystal ocean cruises are very safe, yet they both have small rooms where guests could take a few moments to iron their clothes before a formal night -- with irons that automatically shut off if left unattended. A few days into the cruise, Ponant left a questionnaire in our stateroom asking for suggestions to make the cruise better, and I took the time to explain how a 24-to-48-hour turnaround for clothes to be washed or pressed was not quickly enough -- given that the first formal evening was in LESS than 24 hours from the time we boarded the ship, AND that we had no access to an iron. They never took the time to speak to us about our concerns -- instead they left what we felt was a rudely worded letter at our stateroom ... restating their "safety reason" argument. Even worse .. their letter included wording along the lines of the fact that THEIR guests don't expect to iron their own clothes. (Guess we weren't considered their guests)! We would have gladly paid what they quoted for our clothes to be ironed IF we could have had them back in time for the gala. Later during the cruise we overheard a guest at the reception desk pleading for her underwear to come back from the laundry because she was completely out - but the receptionist was just as aloof with her, curtly restating their 24-48 hour laundry return policy. Compared to cruise lines where the focus is on accommodating requests from guests, some of the staff on Ponant seemed to have such an unfriendly attitude ... reception desk staff rarely even looked up from their computers, offered a smile, or even a "good morning". Ponant never bothered to address our concern over why the gala night was held so soon after boarding -- when we had no way to get wrinkles out of our clothes, so, I felt it futile to fill out their evaluation form at the end of the cruise. The food was good for the most part, but not exceptional -- and on 3 separate occasions when we ordered a particular meal (i.e., their featured choice of a quinoa dinner) they just delivered a totally different meal (pasta with shrimp) without ANY explanation whatsoever. They just plopped the pasta in front of me and quickly walked away. Only in 1 instance did they offer an explanation (they had run out of one of the featured salmon choice my husband had made). To be fair, some of the staff were VERY friendly and helpful, but more than a few were not, and we found that unusual for this price-range cruise. For example, one evening when we went to the bar at the observation area, we asked the bartender to make us a cocktail with gin, fresh lime juice & a bit of sugar. He told us he didn't have lime juice (we learned the next day that the downstairs bartender DID have lime juice and was happy to make that drink for us). The observation deck bartender who told us he couldn't make anything with lime juice told us he might be able to get lime juice downstairs, BUT that we'd have to pay an extra $1 for it, and we felt that was outrageously petty. Maybe Ponant's focus is to cater to all the Tauck guests, but not the rest of us. We weren't the only people on board who felt this way -- others we met from various places around the world had similar feelings. On several occasions, we were simply chatting with people at our table after "mealtime" (and we were NOT asking to be served anything else) ... but still, we were told we had to leave the table. There aren't many places on Le Laperouse where people can gather and chat (or often the other areas are crowded with no seating available) so we felt it was unfriendly for them to "kick us out" of the dining room when it as obvious we were just talking, AND all our place-settings had already been cleared. Not all the time, but more times than we could count, we had to flag someone down in the morning to bring coffee or in the evening to bring wine -- even after we'd been seated for at least 10 minutes. Also, at bars, instead of the staff offering nuts or snacks with our cocktails, we had to specifically ask if they had a salty snack to have with our cocktails. ONLY then would they reach beneath their counter to give us some nuts! Additionally, we would have appreciated some educational sessions in the theatre each day, with informative information about our next port -- but we only learned a bit about our next port from the daily newsletter left on our beds at night. I mention these examples just to give others an idea of times we didn't feel like appreciated guests. Maybe if this had been our FIRST luxury cruise, we might have had lower expectations and would have nothing to compare it to -- but every other cruise we've been on has been superior with how organized, friendly, and helpful they were. We're easygoing and usually happy with even slightly above average service (especially when it's obvious the staff is eager to go-the-extra-mile on simple requests) but unfortunately, for us, Ponant was disappointing in enough aspects to ever return, or recommend it to others. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore ... Read More
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore excursions were excellent, especially the ports in Vanuatu. Being exposed to different cultures is important to me and the islands seemed very authentic and much more exotic than I expected. My only criticism was the use of the naturalists. On other cruises we have always enjoyed lectures by professors and experts on the area, that included historians as well as naturalists. Some of the lectures were quite good, others were almost insultingly basic. And there was almost no information given about the history of the islands and their place in the world today. I also would have appreciated more information on the people of the islands from an anthropologic viewpoint. With a couple of exception, the naturalists were not very visible on the excursions, it would have been good to have more direct contact with them. One of the things I appreciated most was the organization on board, you did an excellent job at that, from the lifeboat drills on. The food was quite good in the second floor restaurant, not so much on the 6th floor. But the wait staff was terrific. We also had contact with the medical staff, sadly, but they were very responsive and helpful Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
It was going to places we had never been before and we had never done expeditions before.i It met all our expectations.it was unfortunate that we missed Sandakan and spend so long at sea.likewise the last day in Manila to catch up with ... Read More
It was going to places we had never been before and we had never done expeditions before.i It met all our expectations.it was unfortunate that we missed Sandakan and spend so long at sea.likewise the last day in Manila to catch up with the ship was as you know terrible.Aside from this the meals onboard the service onboard were great.The cabin was very good and the daily cabin person was very helpful.The shore excursions were enjoyable.Those that involved walking for distances in forest terrain should have warned us how undulating it accurately was!! The entertainment by the locals was excellent both on land and on the wharves.Maybe for those of us who not into snorkling more could be done to find better areas for safe swimming.this was our first time with Ponant and it has made us aware of what you have to offer and we will return Not known in NZ Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of ... Read More
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of time. I was looking for a cruise that sailed around New Zealand but I did not want a cruise that crossed the Tasman Sea from Australia. Ponant was the only luxury cruise line that had such an itinerary. The cruise started in Auckland and ended in Milford Sound (and then to Queenstown). Prior to booking this cruise I had never heard of Ponant and the reviews on various sites were not great. Here is my attempt to give more information. Pre and post cruise hotels – We did not buy the Pre or Post cruise hotel options from Ponant. However, we stayed in the same hotels as these packages and arranged our own transportation to/from the ship, at a fraction of the cost. We stayed pre-cruise at the Sofitel Viaduct Harbor in Auckland. This Sofitel is a very nice hotel located right near the harbor area. We were able to take walking tours of the city, the wharf and the museums. Our cab ride to the ship took about 5 minutes. Embarkation – Once we arrived at the ship, within the check-in window of 4 to 5 pm, we were escorted directly to the gangway. We had our photo taken at the entrance to the ship and were handed our cabin card. They did not even ask for a credit card imprint. We were escorted directly to our cabin and our bags arrived almost immediately. This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had. Ship – The L’Austral can hold as many as 250 passengers. On this trip there were approximately 200 passengers and 140 crewmembers. The ship is small but seemed to have very good stabilizers, when we hit rough waters. The ship had a small pool with padded lounge chairs, a fitness center with very nice views, and several viewing decks. In addition, the Captain maintained an “open bridge” policy. If the sign was green on the door to the bridge, you were welcome to come in and watch. The ship is French. The Captain and his direct reports were almost all from France. When the ship would make announcements, the first announcement was in French and the second was in English. About ½ of the passengers were Americans. About ¼ were French. The remaining crewmembers were from all over the world, consistent with every other cruise line. Internet is available throughout the ship at a price per minute. The internet service was very slow and did not work very well, if at all. You would be better off going to cafes on shore and get free internet. Activities and children’s club – The ship had a small library and card room plus a couple of bars fore and aft. We spent most of our daylight hours on shore so we did not participate in any of the activities. The ship had a small children’s area. On our cruise there were zero children on board. Service – Our cabin steward was excellent. Our cabin was very clean and he was very timely. We never came back from a meal or excursion and found him working on the room. Our servers in the dining room were also excellent. They were very friendly and would know us by name. Dining – The ship has two dining areas. The main dining room is on deck #2 and can accommodate all passengers. The dining room on deck #6 always had a buffet set-up for the meals. This dining room could not hold all the passengers so reservations were required. We ate 100% of our dinners in the main dining room. In the main dining room, it was “open” seating. You could sit anywhere you liked. Sometimes we ate with others and sometimes just the 2 of us. Dinner service started at 7:00 each night but often we wouldn’t arrive until 7:30 or 8:00. Not a problem. Breakfast was served buffet-style in both dining rooms although you could also order eggs and omelets, as preferred. The dinners were French cuisine. At each meal you had a choice of 3-4 entrees. You could also order a generic steak, chicken or fish dish also. The only time selection was limited to one entrée was on the Captain Welcome dinner and the Captain’s Gala dinner. For these two dinners, they suggested coats and ties. The entrée was lamb one night and beef filet the 2nd night. There was always a vegetarian option. If you like French food and cuisine, this ship will thrill you. My wife loved the food. Personally, I would have preferred simple meat, potatoes and vegetables. The chocolate desserts were wonderful. Each night 8 lucky guests were able to eat at the Captain’s table. We assumed these “lucky” guests were the high-rollers in the Owners Suites. Much to our surprise, on the 6th night of the cruise, we returned to our 4th level cabin and were invited to eat at the Captain’s Table – What a wonderful man and a very special evening. Cabin – Most of the cabins are balcony cabins. The majority of the cabins are approximately 200 sq. ft., not including the small balcony. As others have mentioned, the toilet is in a small room, by itself. In the next small room is the shower and sink. In the main part of the cabin is the bed and a chair. The balcony has 2 small chairs and a small table. On most ships, we try to book cabins approx. 300 sq. ft. On this ship, that was not an option. You went from the 200’ cabin to the large suites. The cost of the cabins increases slightly as you go higher on the ship but the cabins are the same size whether on 4, 5 or 6. Try to get a cabin in the middle or towards the front for the best ride. On this itinerary, we traveled in a clock-wise direction so you really needed an “odd #” cabin (starboard side). Get “even” (port side) if taking in reverse. Entertainment – I never book a cruise for the entertainment value. This ship had 4 dancers and 2-3 singers. We did not go to any of the main evening performances. The theatre is small but could accommodate all passengers. Ports and excursions – We had $500 of shipboard credit and we used our credit on 2 shore excursions. The cruise line offered 2-3 excursions per port. The excursions were well selected but very pricey. If we did not have the shipboard credit, we probably would have arranged all of our tours ourselves. I have reviewed the ports in more detail in the Port Review section. Here are the highlights: Tauranga – Took a tour to Rotorua arranged via Zealander. We ended-up as the only guests so we got a very personal tour. Saw geysers, Rotorua Lake area, Redwoods, waterfalls, Kiwi farm and Maori show. Napier – Took a Whirlwind Tour arranged with Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours. Once again, we were the only guests so our tour was private. We saw all the sites of Napier and had a wine tasting at Mission winery. Wellington – We rode the Red Cable Car and then did our own walking tour of the city. Picton – This was the first shore excursion booked from the ship. Their vendor was Cougar Tours. We had a boat ride across the harbor and were dropped-off for a guide-led hike along a portion of the Queen Charlotte track. Very nice! Akaroa – We booked the “Swim with Dolphins” from Black Cats. The bay has Hector dolphins. We did see the dolphins but the water was too rough to swim with them. They refunded a portion of our cost. Dunedin – This was the 2nd excursion arranged from the ship. The tour took us, by bus, to the Ortago Peninsula. On this peninsula, we saw nesting Albatrosses, nesting penguins and many very young, baby seals. A great wildlife area! Disembarkation and Queenstown – The cruise ended at Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a beautiful area in the fiords of the South Island. We met the bus at 7:30 which was earlier than we expected from the printed material (which said 9:00). Disembarkation was no problem. The cruise fare included bus service to Queenstown. In Queenstown, we stayed at the St. Moritz hotel. This boutique hotel is located within walking distance to the CBD. Queenstown is a very vibrant area with many adventurous activities. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and hiked some trails at the top. Summary ---- Overall, we enjoyed this cruise very much. The itinerary was great and I would cruise with Ponant again. In particular, we enjoyed the small size of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We took a Tauck tour "Cruising Down Under." This was a new tour for Tauck and they chose L'Austral starting in Auckland, New Zealand and ending in Melbourne, Australia for 12 days. Let me say that we have traveled twice on ... Read More
We took a Tauck tour "Cruising Down Under." This was a new tour for Tauck and they chose L'Austral starting in Auckland, New Zealand and ending in Melbourne, Australia for 12 days. Let me say that we have traveled twice on the Regent Seven Seas through the Panama Canal and Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, twice on the Paul Gauguin in the South Seas, once on the Silver Seas - Silver Cloud from Istanbul to Cyprus and twice on the Windstar – once in the Caribbean and once on the Adriatic, and NEVER had a problem. Our complaints arise with the L’Austral. The food on this ship was not up to Tauck standards. As a matter of fact it was awful. Many people on the tour complained about the food and said they would write to Tauck which I have also done. Dinner on Deck 2 in Le Coromandel was bland and uninviting. One instance of poor food was the Rib Eye Steak which was very tough, and when I complained to the maître d he said the steak was from New Zealand and therefore not under their control. Has anyone ever heard of ordering from another supplier? If so many people complained in a restaurant and the restaurant did nothing about it – it would be closed. Well the ship had a captive audience. Both Captain’s Dinners were pre-set menus. When we asked the waiter what would happen if we didn’t like the meal, he told us, “Don’t eat it.” The serving sizes were very small and of poor quality. For example, for an appetizer we had “one” scallop; the second course was “one” lobster medallion about the size of a quarter. We had monkfish one night, which was about two inches and wouldn’t feed a child. This is a French ship and we had to continually ask for a French dinner. We asked for Escargot and got it once. We asked for French Onion Soup and all the chef did was sauté onions and plopped them in beef bouillon. No crusty bread in the soup and no cheese on top. Should I have offered to give the chef the recipe for French Onion Soup? We asked for a soufflé for dessert and we were told that there were not enough cooks in the kitchen to make soufflés. Could this be possible??? On Deck 6 the casual Le Rodrigues was a buffet and was another culinary experience. The first night we chose to eat in this restaurant because we were tired and wanted a shorter dining time. One gastronomical delight was a hamburger not even fit for a dog. We were told that Tauck suggested hamburgers because most of their tour group was Americans. The average age of our group was about 65 and for the most part well-travelled people who paid a great deal for this trip. Do you honestly think we were looking for hamburgers? The rest of the buffet was sparse and tasteless. The fish was tough, the pork medallions were dry and I could get better spaghetti and meatballs in an Atlantic City, NJ buffet table. The bathroom in our cabin and in every cabin consisted of two rooms – a water closet with a bowl and no sink. You have to leave the water closet and then go into the portion of the bathroom with a sink and a shower. This is so unsanitary that I felt that I was in an airport bathroom. How could this renowned ship have a water closet with no sink to wash your hands before you opened the door to leave this portion of the bathroom? As a matter of fact there were many people on board the ship who were sick with bad colds and flu-like symptoms. The ship’s doctor said that there was an epidemic of bad colds and flu-like symptoms on the cruise before ours. It seems that the ship was not sanitized before we got on board. The Wi Fi on the ship was barely existent. If you managed to log on, you were bounced off in two minutes. We were told that their connection to the satellite was weak – well upgrade. When we were in port we were told that you could not get a connection because the buildings interfered with the connection. We were supposedly connecting to a satellite and not a tower – so how could the buildings get in the way. We paid almost $40,000 for this vacation. The most we have ever spent on any vacation and I am sure a large portion of this was due to the L’Austral. I would like to talk to the group that made the decision to use this ship and ask them if they actually took the voyage and actually ate the same food that was served to us. This ship is supposed to be a luxury cruise ship. It was not luxury but sub par. I have seen other reviews which give this ship and food a decent rating. I can't understand why.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
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